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Anonymous donor pays off Cassopolis lunch balances

Published 6:14pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

At least 100 students of Cassopolis Public Schools had their negative lunch balances paid off anonymously after a community resident donated $2,000 to the Cassopolis food services department.

Food services Director Robyn Bright said she got teary-eyed when she received the check from the donor, who specifically asked the funds be allocated to wiping out negative lunch balances for students and their families who are struggling financially. Bright said that once a student’s lunch balance reaches $9, parents receive a letter at home explaining the amount owed. Because Cassopolis schools don’t deny any student meals, balances can sometimes reach high amounts.

“There are some kids that don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch,” Bright said. “Their parents are right at that threshold and make just enough, but then the furnace went out or they had unexpected car repairs that week and they have a difficult time reducing those balances.”

Once parents got the letter notifying them of their student’s balance, Bright began receiving calls about what they should do. That’s when she said she “takes care of it.”

“We just keep it confidential,” Bright said. “We see the kids in the morning, and we’re finding out what might be going on at home before anyone else.”

Bright said the department is self-sustaining and doesn’t have a financial standing in the district’s general fund, therefore, the donation served yet another need.

“It’s definitely helping our financial status,” Bright said.

Last year, Bright said she and other food service employees took their own money from church tithing and pooled it to take care of the negative balances. She said this was the first time someone anonymously came forward with a donation for that purpose.

“In all my years, no one has offered to do this,” Bright said. “It’s wonderful.”

After serving 100 students, Bright said there is still $824 left in the donation fund. Some students are already back at the $9 balance limit, with some reaching as high as $70 or more.

“We’ll continue to try and help as many kids as we can,” Bright said. “We just can’t tell you how thankful we are. They care about our community and the kids who need that assistance.”

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